In light of the recent brouhaha over Subway’s missing inch, I began to think how we value food. We know what makes a good deal for a toaster or a television, but defining what makes a smart purchase when we feed ourselves is more complex.
Obviously taste is a big component. I’ll mindlessly plunk down the going rate for my favorites. And if I happen across 25 cent wing night..
But there’s also considerations like convenience, hunger, restaurant ambiance, and social pressures. And we’re required to weigh these considerations at least three times daily. Whether we do so consciously or not. That’s a lot more pressure than choosing a toaster.
These complexities in determining food value makes it easy to understand why we often default to the easiest variable for us to judge, volume per dollar. Hence we now have $10 large pizzas, 1lb burritos, all you can eat buffets, and outrage over subway’s missing inch.
All this leaves out a key factor, nutrition. Likely because nutrition is difficult to put a price on. What is health worth? It’d be easier if we could easily correlate our dietary choices to a future health expense.
If you knew an extra $1 for nutritious food today will prevent the need for a $30 monthly diabetes medicine, it’s money well spent. But these types of comparisons are impossible without a time machine. Even then, who’s going to the future to check on their health? I’d go grab a sports almanac.
Maybe you do pay attention to nutrition. The growing organic movement is evidence you’re not alone. Still, I’m willing to bet cost per volume, even of healthy food, is likely your driving food budget force.
We gotta eat. We gotta feed our families. And we have little defense against the desire to acquire more for less. Even for free range chicken.